Pinewood Derby spotlights craftsmanship as well as racing

| July 1, 2021 | 0 Comments

PACK 16 Scouts at Liston Speedway, Larchmont.

LISTON SPEEDWAY, Larchmont — Despite a strong surge from Jace Kim’s yellow Spiderman car, Jaden De Guzman’s blue and red Streak held the lead in the final race to remain undefeated the entire day in Cub Scout Pack 16’s Bear and Wolf combined-dens Pinewood Derby at Liston Speedway in the heart of Larchmont on May 15.

What a day! With temperatures in the mid-70s, parent-spectators unfolded beach chairs on Cubmaster Alex Liston’s front lawn. The 32-foot-long racetrack was laid out on her driveway, and the cub scouts sat on the cement closest to the action.

Ok, I get it — the Pinewood Derby isn’t really athletic, but it is sport. Consider activities like drag racing, darts and poker. The NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) season is featured on FOX Sports. Premier League Darts can be seen on ESPN3, and of course World Series of Poker belongs to CBS Sports Network.

So, bring on the Blue and Gold’s Pinewood Derby!

SCOUTS Henry Fiedler and Sawyer Jenkins study the completed race cars.

In the pits

Preparation for the races began early that Saturday. With help from neighbor Gary Shaffer, den leaders — and dads — Andy Fiedler and Jan Huybrechs assembled the track in Liston’s driveway.

“Gary was super-helpful,” said Fiedler. “With the three of us, we got it done in about an hour.”

The real preparation for most of the racers began long before race day. Each scout received an official BSA (Boy Scouts of America) Pinewood Derby car kit, which consisted of four plastic tires, a small page of number decals, four axles (nails), and a rectangular pine block measuring 7” long and 2 ¾” wide.

Constructing a car is a personal project, though parents assist (hopefully) in the sawing and shaping of the body. Tutorial videos on YouTube are helpful, offering hints to maximize performance. The car cannot weigh more than five ounces, so one site suggested baking the wood block in the oven two hours at 250 degrees to remove moisture and bring down the weight. This enables the scout to modify his car later by drilling a hole on the underside just before the rear axles and adding weight there (lead ball fishing sinkers was one suggestion.) Apparently this weight placement makes a car faster. Sanding the body was recommended, and lubricating with graphite powder where the wheels touch the axles.

PINEWOOD DERBY cars at the starting line.

The green flag

Is there anything more glorious than race day? Den leaders Fiedler and Huybrechs directed the opening proceedings. There was no stirring rendition of “Back Home in Indiana,” but the scouts recited the Pledge of Allegiance, then the Scout Oath. God is mentioned in both, still.

The pandemic caused 2020’s Pinewood Derby to be cancelled. Traditionally, the race takes place in St. Brendan’s gymnasium, but COVID-19 precautions forced other options to be considered. This 2021 race fielded fewer competitors than any previous Pinewood Derby for Pack 16.

“Both Webelo groups and a new Tiger den did not sign up because of COVID,” explained Liston.

WINNERS included Jaden De Guzman (left) in first place, and Che Tang (right) in third place.

The racing was still competitive, and fun. A double-elimination bracket was used, so every scout’s car was guaranteed at least two races. Jaden De Guzman and Jace Kim took the top two trophies, and Che Tang was third.

In keeping with Scouting spirit, additional awards were presented after the final race: Henry Fiedler — Most Creative Car, Sawyer Jenkins — Coolest Car, Lucas Huybrechs — Mad Max Award, Koa Deomampo — Scout Spirit Award and Van Liston — Rush Hour Award.

Huh? Rush Hour Award?

“It’s because it took me less than a half hour to build my car,” spouted Bear scout Van proudly.

Checkered flag, please.

By Jim Kalin

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Category: Entertainment

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